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Deciding to become a teacher in Hawaii is an exciting career choice. With its tropical climate and laid-back lifestyle, teaching in the Aloha State offers a unique environment in which to inspire young minds.

In short, to become a teacher in Hawaii you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree, complete a teacher preparation program, obtain a state teaching license, and find a teaching job in the Hawaii public school system or at a private school.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the steps and requirements to start your teaching career in beautiful Hawaii.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Pursuing an undergraduate degree is an essential step to qualify for a teaching credential in Hawaii. Teacher candidates should strategically select a major, fulfill general education requirements, and maintain academics to be competitive applicants after graduation.

Choose a Teaching Major

Those aspiring to teach elementary grades typically major in elementary education, child development, or a related field. For secondary licensure, majors closely align with the intended subject area for instruction. For instance, those planning to teach high school math would major in mathematics.

Other common secondary education majors include biology, English, and social studies.

Dual majors, such as mathematics and physics, may make candidates more marketable in certain teaching fields. Education majors also select one or more specializations, such as special education or teaching English language learners, to broaden opportunities.

Complete General Education Requirements

In addition to major coursework, teacher candidates need to complete general education requirements stipulated by their university and the state teacher standards board. These aim to provide well-rounded content knowledge. Common areas covered include:

  • Composition and rhetoric
  • Sciences and mathematics
  • Arts and humanities
  • History and social sciences
  • World languages and cultures

Students may have some flexibility in choosing which specific courses to take within each category. However, the teacher accreditation board provides curricular guidelines for foundational knowledge in each area.

Maintain a Competitive GPA

A high grade point average (GPA) helps teacher candidates compete for selective teaching credential programs and job openings. The state requires a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA to qualify for the teaching license.[1] Yet meeting this baseline is often insufficient when vying for top credentialing pathways or school districts.

Maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA is advisable for those with teaching ambitions. Standout academic performance also enables students to qualify for scholarships, honors societies, and other accolades valued by hiring committees.

Developing a record of achievement through academics and campus leadership roles is key.

Enroll in a Teacher Preparation Program

Traditional Certification Route

The traditional route to becoming a certified teacher in Hawaii involves enrolling in a state-approved teacher preparation program. These are typically 4-year bachelor’s degree programs offered at colleges and universities across the state. Some of the most popular choices are:

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Brigham Young University – Hawaii
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu
  • Hawaii Pacific University

In these programs, you’ll take a blend of general education courses, teaching methods classes, and gain supervised field experience in real classrooms. Upon completion, you’ll earn a bachelor’s degree along with eligibility for a Hawaii teaching license.

Alternative Certification Route

For those who already hold a bachelor’s degree, Hawaii also offers alternative pathways to teacher certification. Two common options are:

  • Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Certification Program: Enroll in condensed 1-2 year education coursework leading to eligibility for a teaching license. Offered at many Hawaii colleges and universities.
  • Hawaii State Approved Teacher Examination (HSATE): Self-study for and pass a certification exam in your chosen subject area. After meeting experience and exam requirements, you can apply for a Hawaii license.

These alternative routes are great for career changers with degrees in fields like math, science, English, and social studies. Both paths allow you to work as a teacher while completing licensure requirements.

No matter which path you take, completing a teacher preparation program tailored to Hawaii requirements is vital for gaining your teaching credentials. Reach out to target colleges or the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board for guidance on enrollment and next steps.

Obtain a Hawaii Teaching License

Pass Required Exams

To become a licensed teacher in Hawaii, you must pass several exams that assess your basic skills, content knowledge, and teaching abilities. The main exams are:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators – Tests reading, writing, and math skills
  • Praxis II Content Knowledge exam – Assesses knowledge in your subject area
  • edTPA – Evaluates your teaching skills and ability to plan, instruct, assess, and reflect on student learning

These exams are standardized tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). You can register and pay for them on the ETS Praxis website. Plan to spend several weeks or months studying before taking each test.

Submit License Application

Once you’ve passed the required exams, you can apply for your initial Hawaii teaching license through the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB). This involves submitting an online application along with documentation like:

  • Transcripts showing your bachelor’s degree
  • Test score reports
  • Proof of teacher training or student teaching
  • Letters of recommendation

The HTSB reviews all applications to verify candidates meet requirement in areas like education, experience, and ethics. Processing time varies but can take 6-8 weeks. The initial license is valid for 5 years.

Clear Background Checks

To ensure student safety, Hawaii teachers must pass federal and state background checks before being issued a license. These comprehensive checks examine:

  • Criminal history
  • Employment records
  • Fingerprints
  • Any violations of teacher code of ethics

Disclosing any arrests, charges, or convictions early in the application process allows the HTSB to thoroughly review your background. Omitting information can delay or prevent licensing. Any concerns raised during the checks may need to be resolved through an HTSB hearing.

Search and Apply for Teaching Jobs

Public Schools

The Hawai’i Department of Education operates the statewide public school system, which includes over 250 elementary, middle, and high schools across the islands. To search and apply for teaching positions at public schools in Hawaii, check the DOE’s job listings site frequently, as new positions are posted regularly.

The application process involves creating an account on the site, selecting the positions you are qualified for and interested in, and submitting all required application materials like your resume, cover letter, licenses, transcripts, and references.

Positions typically close 3-4 weeks after posting, so check back often and apply early.

Private Schools

There are over 100 private and independent schools in Hawaii offering a wide variety of educational models, philosophies, and learning environments. Each school manages their own hiring, so browse school websites individually to find open teaching positions.

Common private schools to check include Punahou School, Iolani School, Mid-Pacific Institute, Maryknoll School, La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls, and Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Search “list of private schools in Hawaii” for more options.

The application process can vary by school but often involves submitting a resume/CV, cover letter, educational philosophy statement, transcripts, licenses, and letters of recommendation. Some also require an interview, sample lesson plan, or on-site demonstration teaching.

Charter Schools

Hawaii has over 35 charter schools that provide free K-12 public education with a specific curriculum focus or educational philosophy. Most are smaller, non-traditional schools aimed at specific student populations or learning models.

To find open charter school teaching positions, browse listings on sites like K12 Job Spot and individual school websites. Top charter schools include Ka Waihona O Ka Na’auao, Hawaii Technology Academy, and Kanu O Ka Aina Learning ‘Ohana.

The application process is similar to private schools – submit required documents like your resume, cover letter, licenses, transcripts, and references directly to the schools you are interested in.

Prepare for the First Year of Teaching

The first year of teaching can be both exciting and overwhelming for new teachers. Proper planning and preparation can help launch your career smoothly in Hawaii’s school system. Here are some tips to get you started:

Plan Curriculum and Lessons

Get a head start on curriculum planning over the summer by reviewing standards, pacing guides, and curriculum resources from your school. Map out units and outline lesson plans to have ready for the first weeks of class.

Be sure to find out about required assessments and build those into your schedule. Reach out to teammates to collaborate and get advice.

Having lesson plans prepared will ease the transition as you take on full teaching duties. But remain flexible, as adjustments will likely be needed to match students’ needs and skill levels. Build in extra activities in case lessons finish early.

Set Up Your Classroom

Make time to organize your classroom space and set up important areas like reading corners, small group tables, learning stations, and technology centers. Refer to storage room inventory lists from your school to request furniture and supplies.

Ensure you have surfaces to display student work samples and anchor charts you’ll create as the year progresses.

In your first days, establish clear classroom expectations, routines, and procedures with students, and then reinforce these regularly. Simple organizational systems help classes run smoothly, maximizing time for instruction.

Attend New Teacher Orientation

Find out if your school or district offers orientation or onboarding sessions for new teachers, and take advantage of these programs. You’ll get introduced to administrators and colleagues while gaining insight on curriculum guidelines, classroom management strategies, school initiatives, and more to prepare for the first semester.

Network with veteran teachers across different grade levels and subjects. Brainstorm solutions to potential challenges and find buddies who can offer mentorship your first year in the classroom.


With pristine beaches and relaxed island living, Hawaii is an excellent place to launch your teaching career. By earning a bachelor’s degree, completing teacher training, obtaining your license, and securing a job, your dream of inspiring Hawaii’s keiki can become a reality.

With hard work and dedication, you’ll be ready to make an impact in island classrooms.

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